It is hard to deny the fact that it has been a turbulent 2016, and the same can be said of the world of law schools as well. Over the past twelve months, we have seen administrative malfunctions, misreportage, and the perfunctory student protest at some of the top law schools in the country.
But as you will find in the rest of this article, it has not been all doom and gloom. Here, we look at twelve law school-related stories that garnered the most attention in 2016.
1. Being the Change
We start on a positive note, with instances of students using the power of the law to bring various authorities and establishments to justice. Law students (some of them at least) have proven to be resourceful in changing things around them, and this year was no different.
An example of this is WHIP (Whistle for Public Interest), an organisation started by two students of Amity Law School. In August, Paras Jain and Kumar Shanu successfully moved the Supreme Court to get CBSE to provide answer sheets copies at the rate prescribed by the RTI Rules.
Earlier, the duo had petitioned the Delhi High Court to ensure that the Delhi High Court (Right to Information) Rules, 2006 were brought in consonance with the RTI Act.
A couple of NLU Delhi students took food delivery aggregator Food Panda to task in the Delhi High Court for levying an inflated Value Added Tax on their bills. Pranav Jain and Aroon Menon also showed their entrepreneurial side, starting an online tax calculator called Kitnatax.
Chanakya Sharma, a student of RMLNLU Lucknow, had also undertaken similar endeavours in the area of consumer law. In July, he won a long drawn battle against an errant courier service, and quite recently, he has embarked on a crusade to stop merchants from levying a fee on debit card transactions.
2. Reverse Rustication
In another example of resourceful to-be lawyers, a group of students from NUJS played a big role in the ouster of corrupt former Registrar, Surajit Chandra Mukhopadhyay.
The students brought to the administration’s notice the fact that the Mukhopadhyay had been misappropriating University funds. The Calcutta High Court struck the final nail in the ex-Registrar’s coffin, holding him guilty of all charges.
3. Out of Order
Another year saw yet another protest at National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam. This time, however, this got rather ugly, with SSB paramilitary forces entering the campus to deal with student protests.
The protests stemmed from the administration’s failure to refund fees paid by the students, which have gone largely unutilised. The students also expressed concern over the “inadequate and oppressive” facilities at the University.
Since then, a change of guard at the helm has been effected, with Prof JS Patil being appointed as the new Vice-Chancellor in October. Prof Patil is confident that the students’ concerns will be addressed and that the shift to the new campus will happen sooner rather than later.
Let’s hope NLUJAA has a better 2017.
4. The Epitome of Injustice
The Gujarat High Court had some rather scathing words for GNLU, Gandhinagar earlier this year.
The court termed the University’s actions as “the epitome of injustice”, after accusing a student of committing malpractice during an exam.
Later, the court passed a consent order, directing a fresh inquiry into the student’s case.
5. Short of Decorum
In April, an NLSIU Bangalore student was the victim of sexist remarks from a professor. The reason? She wore shorts to class. Naturally, outrage followed. While the matter was put to bed shortly thereafter, it begged the larger question: do law schools need a dress code? We sought to garner the students’ opinion on this, through our 6 question survey.
Most respondents were not in favour of having a dress code, and the results came with a few interesting responses.
6. Common sense
Perhaps taking a leaf out of its national equivalent, Maharashtra’s first Common Entrance Test for law was surrounded by controversy throughout this year.
Various petitions were filed challenging the exam, largely on grounds of ill-preparedness of the conducting authorities. However, the courts refused to interfere with the exam, much to the dismay of some of the candidates.
8. The ‘Clauses’ are out
In September, the Bar Council of India officially brought back Clause 28 in the Advocates Act, thereby effecting an age limit for admission to law courses. This, after a couple of high courts held the provision to be unconstitutional.
As a result of this ‘revival’, next year’s CLAT, as well as this year’s Maharashtra Law CET will apply the age limit. The move has been met with strong opposition across the country. A petition filed in the Allahabad High Court by fifty-seven students could well determine the validity of the rule.
9. No CLATastrophe (for once)
On the subject of CLAT, it must be noted that in a diversion from the norm, this year’s edition went on as smoothly as possible. Hosted by RGNUL, Patiala, CLAT 2016 faced just one challenge, in the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
Shamnad Basheer’s petition calling for a permanent CLAT body to conduct the exam is still pending in the apex court, though.
9. NLU, Everywhere
In August, Chief Justice of India TS Thakur inaugurated the country’s twentieth national law university, in Himachal Pradesh.
Concerns have been expressed over the so-called ‘mushrooming’ of NLUs and the consequent dilution of the NLU brand, given the issues faced by the newer institutes.
And this proliferation of NLUs is not likely to stop, with two more NLUs in the pipeline in West Bengal alone.
10. Elitist law schools
A common criticism of the top law schools in India today is that they breed elitism. To shed more light on the lack of diversity in NLUs, a group of NLSIU students conducted an extensive survey in their University.
And the results were quite telling, in terms of gender ratio, religious diversity and caste-based discrimination.
11. Misreporting & Selfies
In June this year, NLU Jodhpur student Pranita Mehta tragically passed away while on holiday in Karnataka. Several media houses falsely reported that she had fallen into the sea from a lighthouse, while attempting to take a selfie.
To counter what was described, rather callously, by the press as a ‘selfie death’, her friend Vinayak Parrikar reached out to the media, to set things straight.
12. The road to Rhodes
We reported on some positive law school news towards the end of this year, as three Indian law students were offered the prestigious Rhodes scholarship for 2017.
Vanshaj Jain from NLSIU Bangalore, Gauri Pillai from WBNUJS Kolkata and Mary Kavita Dominic, the first ever Rhodes Scholar from NUALS Kochi all made the cut this time round.
We caught up with a couple of them to discuss their journey.
It would be remiss of us to not mention a couple more stories, including the GNLU student who is helping her peers cope with the stress of law school life, and the first law school sports fest for the differently abled hosted by NUJS.
(Lead image courtesy Creative Genes)
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